Washington - The Massachusetts congressional delegation requested information on the Donald Trump administration´s effort to address mental health challenges in Puerto Rico following recent earthquakes.
Senators Elizabeth Warren - presidential pre-candidate - and Ed Markey, and Representatives Richard Neal, James McGovern, Joseph Kennedy III, William Keating, Katherine Clark, Lori Trahan, and Ayanna Pressley sent a letter to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) requesting information on the agency´s efforts regarding this issue.
In a letter to SAMHSA Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Elinore McCance-Katz, Democratic lawmakers requested information, no later than February 26, on that agency´s efforts to assist the victims since the earthquakes started on December 28 and what resources the Puerto Rican government requested.
They also asked for data on the mental health of the Puerto Rican people and their access to services since September 2017, when Hurricanes Irma and María devastated Puerto Rico.
The federal lawmakers also want to know if SAMHSA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have received or approved any requests for assistance through the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP).
Following devastating Hurricane María, SAMHSA granted $18.7 million in CCP program funds to the island, including support for the PAS counseling line. But those services did not continue after FY 2019, according to the federal lawmakers.
In the letter, they also request information on whether SAMHSA currently supports the PAS counseling line and if there are any resources to avoid connectivity problems like those that arose after Hurricane María.
The federal lawmakers, who are part of the Democratic Massachusetts delegation, sent the letter to SAMHSA on February 5, noting that the trauma of a life-altering experience like Hurricane María can last a lifetime and that symptoms of depression, anxiety, and traumatic stress can continue even months and years later. In this context, they stressed that last month´s spate of earthquakes is not only alarming for Puerto Rico´s residents but also aggravates an already existing mental health crisis.